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Updated at 8:35am — La Plata County, Colo., OKs Medical Pot Laws

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Land-use rules OK growing operations, production of marijuana-infused products.

La Plata County, Colo., is now in the business of regulating medical marijuana after county commissioners on Tuesday adopted a set of temporary land-use regulations that will allow limited medical marijuana growing operations and production of marijuana-infused products within the county, The Durango Herald reported.

A moratorium on new permit applications remains in effect, however, The Herald said.

Only those pre-applications submitted earlier this year when the moratorium was temporarily lifted will be processed, County Manager Shawn Nau said.

Applications for medical marijuana centers, or dispensaries, also will remain shelved, effectively creating a ban on those operations in unincorporated areas of the county, The Herald said.

“I just think that right now, the municipalities are better suited for that,” Commissioner Kellie Hotter said.

Commissioners on Tuesday also lifted proposed limits on medical marijuana facilities’ operating hours, allowing them to operate any time of day, unless otherwise limited by the county’s planning department, the paper reported.

Commissioners also increased the amount of growing space that medical marijuana users and caregivers can use inside their homes and on their propertiess without needing a permit from 200 square feet to 300 square feet, according to The Herald.

Meanwhile, Colorado’s state health department said Tuesday that about 2 percent of Colorado’s residents now have cards to buy medical marijuana, The Associated Press reported.

Officials said the number of medical marijuana users in the state now totals about 116,000 — more than the population of Pueblo, Colo., the AP said.

Applicants must show that they are Colorado residents and attach a form from a doctor stating that they suffer from an ailment that qualifies them for use of medical pot, such as cancer, AIDS, glaucoma or chronic pain, which is the most common ailment cited, according to the AP.

Applications cost $90 a year, unless patients meet poverty guidelines, the AP said.


9:30am 7/21/10 — Durango OKs New Medical Marijuana Ordinance: Dissenter says new industry is more about ‘recreational use’ than medicine.

The Durango City Council on Tuesday passed a tough new medical marijuana ordinance that banned commercial growing operations inside city limits, imposed a thorough background check for dispensary operators and raised the fee to open a medical marijuana center by nearly $1,500, The Durango Herald reported.

The draft ordinance, which must be passed at another meeting to become law, was approved on a 3-1 vote, with Councilor Leigh Meigs absent and Councilor Paul Broderick casting the dissenting vote, The Herald said.

Broderick, who supported the city’s first medical marijuana ordinance last year, said it’s time to “call a spade a spade,” the paper reported.

“When I supported the first ordinance … we needed something. It was better than nothing,” Broderick said. “But seeing how this whole industry has played out in this state, it’s clearly not predominantly about medicine. It’s really recreational use.”

Broderick said further efforts to regulate medical marijuana in Colorado are really just about legalization, saying “The medicine thing, that’s just a way to increase legal marijuana use,’ The Herald said.

Councilor Doug Lyon said he supported the ordinance because it is in the best interest of the community to have laws regulating medical marijuana, the paper reported.

“I’m not a fan, but nobody cares whether I’m a fan of it or not,” Lyon said.

Mayor Michael Rendon said the ordinance isn’t perfect and that the city might want to consider decriminalizing marijuana use in the future, according to The Herald.

“What we’re doing tonight is trying to put some regulations in place to match up the state code with the local,” Rendon said. “I think we should go forward with it so at least we have some regulations in place in our community.”


5:50am 7/14/10 — Colorado County Won’t Put Medical Pot on Ballot: La Plata Co. commissioners vote 2-1 against putting possible ban to a vote.

La Plata County (Colo.) commissioners on Tuesday voted 2-1 against asking county voters whether commercial medical marijuana operations should be banned, The Durango Herald reported.

Commissioner Kellie Hotter asked to put the matter to voters, but she failed to persuade fellow Commissioners Joelle Riddle and Wally White that the ballot question was necessary, The Herald said.

“I’m not saying that I want to ban it,” Hotter told the packed meeting before the vote. “What I’m saying is that I want 50,000 people out there to weigh in on this.”

Riddle said, however, that local voters already had spoken on the matter — including support for the state constitutional amendment that legalized medical marijuana in 2000 and Amendment 44, which would have decriminalized small amounts of marijuana, which failed to pass in Colorado as a whole but was OK’d by 56 percent of La Plata County voters, The Herald said.

White called the issue the most contentious he has seen in his five years in office, but said putting the issue to the voters would be shirking his duty, the paper reported.

“I believe that we are elected to make difficult decisions, and this is a very difficult decision,” White said. “I don’t know that I can support putting it on the ballot at this point.”


8:15am 6/29/10 — Colorado’s New Medical Marijuana Law to Take Effect Thursday: Eight applications filed so far in La Plata County’s break from moratorium.

Under a new law scheduled to go into effect on Thursday, medical marijuana entrepreneurs throughout Colorado must either open a store or apply for a local license by this Thursday or wait at least another year, The Durango Herald reported.

In addition to the Thursday deadline for applying for a local license, dispensary owners will have to apply for a state license with Colorado’s Department of Revenue by Aug. 1, The Herald said.

Pot businesses that miss either deadline will have to wait until July 1, 2011 to apply, the paper reported.

“We needed to draw the line at some point because we need to process 500 or 1,000 applications,” Mark Couch, Department of Revenue spokesman, told The Herald.

Colorado House Bill 1284, signed by Gov. Bill Ritter earlier this month, puts strict requirements and fees of $7,500 to $18,000 on dispensaries, requires dispensaries to have both state and local licenses and gives cities and counties the power to make stricter rules or ban dispensaries altogether, The Herald said.

Meanwhile, eight La Plata County residents have taken advantage of a weeklong lull in the county’s moratorium on new medical marijuana operations and have submitted paperwork in advance of Thursday’s deadline when the moratorium will resume, The Herald said in another story.

A preapplication is required for people already engaged in some aspect of medical marijuana cultivation, manufacturing of medical marijuana products or for people intending to enter the business, The Herald said.

Since the county moratorium was lifted on June 22, 30 people had requested an application form, but as of Monday only eight people had returned the form, the paper reported.

Anyone else intending to do so has until 5 p.m. Wednesday to get the form to the La Plata County planning department, The Herald said.


6:55am 6/23/10 — La Plata County Temporarily Lifts Medical Marijuana Moratorium: County opens weeklong window for operators to comply with state deadlines.

La Plata County (Colo.) commissioners on Tuesday voted to temporarily lift a moratorium on medical marijuana operations, giving existing operators the chance to remain open while state regulations are being drafted, The Durango Herald reported.

The county Planning Department will begin accepting applications at 8 a.m. today and will take them until 5 p.m. June 30, when the moratorium goes back into effect, The Herald said.

If the county’s moratorium had remained in place, operators would have missed the July 1 deadline for proving to the state that they have local approval or have applied for it, the paper reported.

Colorado legislators in their last session enacted a law, signed by Gov. Bill Ritter earlier this month, setting new rules for growing and selling medical marijuana, and local governments have been rushing to draft their own rules, The Herald said.

Although the southern Colorado county will accept applications for land-use permits for medical marijuana operations for a limited time, the county does not yet have a process for reviewing or approving them — a process county officials say will likely take hundreds of hours of attorney time over the coming months, according to The Herald.



7:45am 6/2/10 — Medical Marijuana Moratorium Extended in Durango: City awaiting Colorado governor’s OK of bill regulating medical pot businesses.

The Durango City Council on Tuesday extended its moratorium on medical marijuana businesses for the third time since last September, while it awaits Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter’s signature of recently passed legislation providing a new regulatory framework for medical marijuana in the state, The Durango Herald reported.

The city’s first emergency marijuana moratorium was passed by the council in September 2009, after three new dispensaries popped up in Durango the previous month, and the city passed its own medical marijuana ordinance last October, clarifying the time, manner and place in which dispensaries could operate, The Herald said.

Then a second moratorium was passed in April after councilors and city officials expressed concerns about marijuana growing operations that hadn’t been addressed in the original ordinance, the paper reported.

That moratorium was supposed to end June 26, but the new moratorium has been extended until Aug. 17 in order to “provide sufficient time to review the state legislation … and to draft and process a revised ordinance regulating medical marijuana dispensaries and grow operations,” City Attorney David Smith told The Herald.


7:25am 5/20/10 — Bayfield, Colo., Bans Medical Pot Dispensaries: Trustees leave door open for dispensaries in nearby Durango to make deliveries.


The Bayfield Town Board this week banned medical marijuana dispensaries from operating within town limits, but trustees left the door open for dispensaries in nearby Durango to make deliveries, The Durango Herald reported.

The southern Colorado town, which in February passed an emergency ban on licensing dispensaries, went ahead with the outright ban in the wake of last week’s passage of a bill by the Colorado Legislature that clarifies the right of a municipality to outlaw medical marijuana dispensaries and related facilities, The Herald said.

The ordinance, passed by a 5-1 vote, prohibits dispensaries, growing operations, and the manufacture of marijuana-infused products within town limits, but does not affect primary caregivers operating in accordance with state law, the paper reported.

Deliveries of medical marijuana will be allowed, but businesses will have to obtain a Bayfield business license and agree to pay a 2 percent town sales tax, according to the new law, which went into effect on Wednesday.


7:45am 4/28/10 — Durango Puts New Hold on Medical Pot Licenses: Emergency measure prompted by concerns about growing operations.

The Durango City Council on Tuesday unanimously passed an emergency moratorium on new licenses to grow medical marijuana, citing concerns about growing operations, The Durango Herald reported.

The ordinance will not affect current medical marijuana patients or dispensaries or those growing operations that are currently operating, and license applications completed and handed in before Tuesday still will be processed, The Herald said.

“While the dispensary ordinance is functioning and seems to be operating smoothly, problems seem to be arising with grow operations and the city,” City Attorney David Smith said.

The city’s dispensary law deals with the “time, manner and place” the shops may operate, but the city’s medical marijuana ordinance does not have rules for large-scale indoor marijuana farms — with hot lights and high electrical loads and millions of dollars worth of product — operating in Durango’s denser zones, The Herald said.

A bill is currently working its way through the Colorado legislature that would regulate medical marijuana growers to 3,000 plants, the paper reported.

And though the emergency ordinance passed Tuesday will give the city time to write rules for growers, entrepreneurs who hope to set up retail stores in Durango will have to wait at least another six weeks, according to The Herald.

Tuesday’s action is the second time the City Council has passed an emergency ordinance, after its first one last summer when the city’s first three medical marijuana dispensaries sprang up in less than a month, The Herald said. In October, Durango became one of the first cities in Colorado to pass a law regulating dispensaries.

A six-month moratorium was enacted in March for new dispensaries and grow houses in surrounding La Plata County.



7:50am 3/24/10 — La Plata County, Colo., Imposes Medical Pot Moratorium: Six-month hold on new dispensaries, grow houses could be lifted with new rules.

La Plata County commissioners unanimously voted Tuesday to impose a six-month moratorium on developing land for medical marijuana dispensaries and grow houses, The Durango Herald reported.

Commissioners said the moratorium was proposed following a recent increase in inquiries to the county’s building and planning departments about requirements for such facilities, as well as some complaints about some existing grow houses in the county, The Herald said.

“We believe it’s important to have a clear process in place,” said Matt Armstrong, assistant director of planning for the southern Colorado county.

Lt. Pat Downs, director of the Southwest Drug Task Force, told county commissioners that dispensaries and grow houses on Colorado’s Front Range have been a popular target for thieves seeking marijuana or money, and one dispensary in Durango had been broken into as well, The Herald said.

But Durango lawyer Stuart Prall, who focuses full-time on legal issues involving medical marijuana, urged the commissioners not to impose the moratorium, saying concerns about facilities have been overblown, the paper reported.

“If you put a moratorium in place,” Prall told commissioners, “You’re just putting your head in the sand.”

A bill is currently before the Colorado legislature that would set rules for dispensaries and grow houses and require them to be licensed and collect sales tax, and La Plata County is working on its own set of rules, The Herald said.

County Commissioner Wally White said that if the county finishes its own rules in less than six months, the moratorium could be lifted sooner.

“It’s not like it’s fixed in stone,” White said.


6:25am 2/18/10 — Southern Colo. Town Just Says No … For Now: Bayfield, Colo., councilors put applications for two medical pot dispensaries on hold.

Bayfield, Colo., town councilors voted unanimously Tuesday night to impose an emergency moratorium on medical marijuana dispensaries, at least for now, The Durango Herald reported.

The southern Colorado town currently has no medical marijuana dispensaries but has recently received two applications, The Herald said.

The town board has until June 1 to decide whether to repeal the moratorium and allow the dispensaries to operate or to extend the moratorium beyond June 1, the paper reported.

Bayfield Marshal Chris Choate said the moratorium is a reasonable course of action for now, at least until the board could appoint a panel of residents to study the issue and present its recommendations, The Herald said.

“It’s not my intent or my office’s intent to offer an opinion based on how we feel or don’t feel about medical marijuana,” Choate said.

David Wells, one of those petitioning the town to open a dispensary, said patients currently receiving medical marijuana have to get their prescriptions filled in Durango, where there are four dispensaries operating, according to The Herald.

“Why pay extra to have somebody from Durango bring it to Bayfield and let them get the tax dollars when we could keep it here in Bayfield?” Wells asked.

As of last Sept. 30, there were 17,356 Colorado residents with medical marijuana prescriptions, including 166 who live in La Plata County, The Herald said.

Colorado is one of 14 states, including New Mexico, that authorize the use of medical marijuana to treat certain debilitating medical conditions.

In New
Mexico, there are five licensed nonprofit medical marijuana distributors, and
a number of other applications pending, according to the state
Department of Health.

The New Mexico health department has authorized slightly more than 1,000 patients to
buy marijuana under the program, while 307 patients are also licensed
to grow their own medical marijuana plants.